English 394 – YA Literature
Grant T. Smith, Ph. D.
Discussion Questions on Censorship
are the issues in Whale Talk that may give an administrator or parent
problems with using the book in the class?
a defense for using the book in a tenth, eleventh, or twelfth grade
English class? Choose passages that
represent themes and issues that you feel are important for high school
students to discuss.
a defense for not using this book in a high school English class. Keep in mind that Plato believed in
censorship. In The Republic he argued that banishing poets and dramatists
from his perfect state was essential for the moral good of the young. Writers often told lies about the gods,
he maintained, but even when their stories were true, writers sometimes
made the gods appear responsible for the evils and misfortunes of mortals.
[The same could be applied to Crutcher’s
treatment of authority figures in Whale
Talk.] Plato reasoned that
fiction was potentially emotionally disturbing to the young. Plato’s call for moral censorship to
protect the young is echoed by many censors today. From “Censorship: Of
Worrying and Wondering”
is obscene in the book?
Cruelty to others
Misuse of authority
- Who is
the best judge for choosing an appropriate text for a high school English
class? The teacher, the principal,
a library board, the superintendent, the students, the parents, the
the following assumptions about censorship:
Nothing is safe from censorship.
The newer the work the more likely it is to come
Censorship creates fear.
Censorship is capricious and arbitrary.
Censorship creates a “slippery slope” of banning
any objectionable book from the library.
Censorship only happens in rural communities.
Individuals who advocate censorship are
humorless, misguided and ignorant.
There is a direct correlation between the book
and the deed.
School texts are an indicator of school values.
Cases on Censorship
The Ginsberg v. New York
(390 U.S. 692)
Miller v California
(413 U.S. 15)
Jenkins v the State of Georgia
(94 S. Ct. 2750)